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Why do national dialogues in Arab countries exclude the participation of major parties? – Middle East Monitor

Tunisian President Kais Saied announced in early May the launch of a “national dialogue” to help resolve the political impasse in the North African country that followed his controversial takeover, when he sacked the government and dissolved the elected parliament. Saied, a former law professor, carried out what his opponents, legal experts and political analysts call a coup against the Constitution on July 25 last year. Since then, he has ruled by presidential decree.

The president claims that he is “cleaning” the country and that he will not reverse his measures. “I say to honest and determined citizens to be a little patient, and there is no turning back,” he reportedly said last August. “I promised God and the people that I would go forward and history would never turn back.”

In a meeting with his government ministers earlier this year, Saied announced the dissolution of the Supreme Judicial Council, accusing it of serving political interests. The Council is an independent constitutional body created in 2016 to ensure the proper functioning and independence of the judiciary.

Earlier this month, he sacked 57 judges at a cabinet meeting, accusing them of disrupting investigations into terrorist cases, shielding suspected terrorists and being financially corrupt.

Since the start of the coup, Tunisia has slipped into a dark place, so Saied began to think about sharing the burden of his failure with the people. However, he insisted on excluding the most important and effective political groupings and that everything revolved around him.

READ: Kais Saied and forbidden love

He proposed his “national dialogue” with a particular quartet: the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT); the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Commerce and Handicrafts (UTICA); the Tunisian League for Human Rights; and the Tunisian Bar Association. He ignored the Islamist Ennahda party, which is the largest political and social party in the country, which has become the main and best organized political movement since the revolution that toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

In Egypt last week, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s National Dialogue Administration announced the date for the first session of the dialogue. Diaa Rashwan, head of the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate, was chosen as the overall coordinator of the process.

It was the first time an official Egyptian body had called for a national dialogue since 2013. It was then that Sisi carried out his military coup against Egypt’s first freely elected president Mohamed Morsi, imprisoned by his former minister of la Défense and died behind bars.

The Egyptian military now essentially rules the country. Tens of thousands of Morsi supporters, mostly Muslim Brotherhood officials and members, as well as opposition activists from other parties, have been imprisoned. Local, regional and international human rights groups report that political prisoners in Sisi prisons endure harsh conditions that do not meet international standards; they lack proper health care and are denied fair and equitable trials. Dozens of people died, and many were denied proper funerals and buried in secret.

“No one will be excluded from the presidential call for national dialogue except those who have blood on their hands or who have practiced terrorism or violence,” Rashwan said. In other words, the main political power in the country – the Muslim Brotherhood – is excluded because the regime has already declared it illegal as a “terrorist” organization, a designation used to justify the imprisonment of its top officials. and its members.

Kais Saied, the Tunisian president dissolves parliament “to preserve the state” – Caricature [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

The actions taken by Saïed and Sisi have this in common: both are putschists and both exclude their political opponents who are Islamists from what are supposed to be comprehensive national dialogues. Both also accuse the Islamists of being terrorists and planning the destruction of the country for the benefit of foreign entities. Without the slightest irony, they accuse their political opponents of being corrupt and of exploiting the state to serve their interests. No evidence was ever provided to support the “terrorist” allegations; it’s a lazy and very easy accusation, mirroring claims made against Muslim political and social groups – even legitimate aid organizations – all over the world.

Saied traveled to Cairo to meet Sisi in April 2021 to learn from his experience with the Muslim Brotherhood and find out how he could deal with Ennahda by turning it into a pariah movement. At a joint press conference, they said they had agreed on ways to fight terrorism and Islamic extremism.

Both Saied and Sisi claim that they are working to get rid of evil powers that their citizens also want to get rid of. Saied alleges that he is working to purge Tunisians of “terrorists” and “extremists”, a direct and obvious reference to Ennahda. He believes he is doing what the Tunisian people want him to do. Sisi made the same claim about the persecution of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

According Al Ahram onlineSisi’s man, Rashwan, claimed that the Egyptian political forces preparing for the national dialogue “reject any participation by Islamists, especially the banned Muslim Brotherhood”.

Such hostility towards Islamists is no coincidence; it is part of a pre-planned strategy imposed by international colonial powers. They do not want popular Islamist movements to upset their “interests” which depend on the autocratic regimes in place in the Arab world.

Ghannouchi: Kais Saied’s putsch in Tunisia is more isolated

In some places, allegations have been made that “Islamist extremists” are supported by colonial powers in order to destabilize Muslim countries and discredit Islam in the West. Due to the success of the Muslim Brotherhood and its ramifications in democratic elections, the movement has been specifically targeted by the West and its minions in Arab capitals. Far from being a “terrorist” organization, it is a moderate and democratic organization that sees Islam as the “radical middle way”.

The US-led colonial powers and their allies in the West and the region don’t want to see even moderate Islamists in government because they don’t want to see a stable Middle East. Divide and rule has long been the tactic adopted by colonial powers, and it is evident in the way the West is interfering in the Arab world in order to control the region’s natural resources.

When given the democratic option, people in Arab states have generally opted for Islamist parties which are incorruptible and therefore more likely to challenge Western hegemony in the region. One need only look at how the West opposed the outcome of the 2006 “free and fair” elections won by Hamas in occupied Palestine to see how it worked in practice, with the West backing an Authority corrupt Palestinian without an electoral mandate led by a president whose political legitimacy ended in 2009.

Indeed, divide and rule has always relied on corrupt local leaders ready and willing to accept the dictates of colonial powers. Saied in Tunisia and Sisi in Egypt play this role to perfection with their masters. It’s easy to blame the West for this, but without the likes of these two “presidents” the tactic would fail. This is why it is imperative for them to keep Islamists out of supposedly national dialogues in the Arab world: those in power – and those behind them in Western capitals – want to make sure that the world Arab remains ruled by despots and dictators. And all this in the name of the “fight against terrorism”. By excluding the big popular political parties, they are destroying democracy in order to defend what they claim to be the democratic will of the people.

The opinions expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.